Ana Mercedes

What was the importance of beauty for you when you were in your 20s?

When I was 25, I lived in Puerto Rico. Beauty meant being attractive to be able to conquer and feel proud. With the little I had I tried to put on my best. To stand straight and show my waistline. I had beautiful straight hair and tried to take good care of it. I was very shy. I did not put on much makeup but always used perfume. My dress style was not eccentric. My dresses were different, simple and made by hand; my mom had them sewed by a dressmaker and they fit me well. I liked bright red and green, but now I like soft colors and not red. White, gray, and pastel colors.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Beauty means keeping elegant and showing off my figure. Hair always taken care of; now I need to dye it and take better care of it. I like buying clothes and shoes. I like dressing simply but well. Simple makeup as well.

If different, why over time have your ideas about beauty changed?

Moneywise there is also a difference because in earlier times one could not afford luxuries and now it is different because one has the possibility of having better things. Fashion has changed but I am not an eccentric dresser, nor do I put on fake eyelashes. The difference is that before I had money to buy clothes. I am always the same…I want to take care of myself, to feel beautiful, but not to make someone else feel good but to make myself feel well.

¿Qué significó para Ud. la belleza cuando tenía 20-29 años?

Cuando yo tenía 25 años yo estaba en Puerto Rico. La belleza significaba estar atractiva para conquistar y para sentirme orgullosa. Con lo poco que tenia trataba de ponerme lo mejor que tenia. Estar erguida marcar la cinturita. Yo tenía un pelo muy bonito liso y trataba de mantenerlo bien. Era muy tímida. No me maquillaba mucho pero usaba siempre perfume. Vestida no era excéntrica. Era distinto, el vestido era sencillo hecho por costurera casera, mi mama lo mandaba hacer a una costurera, bien entalladitos. Los colores eran tenues a mi me gustaba el rojo y el verde, los colores vivos pero ahora me gustan los colores tenues, el rojo no. El blanco, gris, colores pastel.

¿Qué significa para Ud. La belleza ahora?

La belleza significa mantenerme elegante y lucir bien. El cabello siempre bien, ahora necesito teñirme y cuidarlo mas. Me gusta comprarme ropa y zapatos. Me gusta vestirme simple pero bien. El maquillaje simple también.

Si es diferente, ¿por qué han cambiado con los años sus ideas sobre la belleza?

Económicamente también hay una diferencia porque en los tiempo de antes uno no se podía comprar lujos ahora es diferente porque uno tiene la posibilidad de tener mejores cosas. La moda ha cambiado pero yo no soy excéntrica al vestirme, ni ponerme pestañas postizas. La diferencia es que antes no tenia el dinero para comprar prendas. Igual yo siempre igual, quiero mantenerme bien, quiero sentirme bella, pero no para hacer sentir bien a alguien sino sentirme bien yo.

Ana Mercedes, 78

San Francisco



My Mother’s Compliments

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s and what does it mean to you now?

As a young girl, my mother showered me with compliments. She thought I was absolutely beautiful. She also thought she was the only woman in the world to ever give birth. That was lovely but I always felt shy about it. Now, as I grew older and went on with my life and traveled, I felt in my mind that I was always searching for similar comments. Because of that, I always tried to have everything neatly in place and look as good as I could. Once in a while I’d get a comment, not about beauty but about cuteness, adorableness, attractiveness, well put together.

At this age, I’m actually still searching for that because the mother/daughter relationship…you want to keep that going. I have heard over the years that a lot of mothers, when their daughters become 13 or 15, say “You don’t look very good” or “Can you do your hair differently?”

Not my mother. I was very, very lucky. It kind of made me search  for that repetition. I don’t really know if I’m beautiful or not because it was only really my mother who really thought so

Whatever I came out with, my mother thought was beautiful. The only thing she told me not to do was to wear brown, and that’s pretty small. No criticism. One interesting thing about her that connects the look to the mind was, for example, shopping for a prom dress. She would say, “Bring me your babysitting money and let’s go downtown. I’ll bring an equal amount of money and we will shop for a dress, very reasonable, simple and elegant. Then we’d come home and we’d put a scarf, the pearls, to make it look more ritzy. I couldn’t afford the price of dresses that my peer girls were purchasing, and nobody knew that I got a more reasonable dress because the posture or the pearls…

My mentor and idol was always Grace Kelly because she was elegance and charm.

Did you think of your mother as a beautiful woman?

Well, I thought she was. I am medium height and she was extremely tall. She thought she was too tall, but she could dress and look very attractive. I tried to take her advice and get rid of my nervousness and build my self-esteem.

So beauty to me meant to put on a nice appearance and so doing, to be able to really relax in the event, evening or dinner and hopefully get some kind of “Gee, you look great tonight.” Some kind of compliment. But if I didn’t get the compliment, that was okay.

Have your ideas about beauty changed over the years…your idea of being attractive or beautiful or cute?

Not at all.

Barbara, 69

San Francisco, October 2010


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